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Change Management and System Development in the Gwent Police Force

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Case Study: Change Management and System Development in the Gwent Police Force This case study discusses the latest development of the information system used in the Command and Control Room of a Police Force in the UK. Although the new system is extremely powerful it is plagued by fundamental operational issues. It highlights the importance of recognizing the needs of users and other operational conditions during the development of computer-based information systems.

The Command and Control Room is where crimes and disturbances are reported and all other requests for Police assistance are received. Contact are typically made in the form of 999 calls from the general public but other messages may be received in the form of email, SMS text messages and radio messages from Police Officers and other public services. There are a number of staffs who work in the Command and Control Room and use the information system. Each member of staff is responsible for receiving all calls from a discrete area of the region that the Police Force covers.

Each person uses several pieces of hardware to operate the information system, shown below:
Access to Intelligence Databases (known offenders, etc)
Staff Rotas including a list of all active Police Officers
Access to several databases containing general Force information Screen 3 (right) provides access to one function:
Real-time map displaying Police Officer positions Screen 1 and 3 are operated by touch. On Screen 1 for example, the operator touches the button labeled “Radio” to access the radio function.
All three screens use different fonts, font sizes and colour schemes. Although each screen is clear and easy to read some operators find it difficult to quickly switch between reading dark text on a light background to light text on a dark background. The mouse allows the operator to navigate around Screen 2 and the keyboard allows them to update the database of incident details.

The headset allows the operator to listen to incoming telephone or radio messages and to provide important information to Officers such as directions to an incident taken from the realtime map on Screen 3. Underneath the desk is a foot pedal which allows to operator to switch the headset from send (talk) to receive (listen) while they are typing or using the touch screens. Quite often an operator will be using Screen 1 to view CCTV and switch radio channels, Using Screen 2 to update the incident records, viewing Screen 3 and giving directions to an incident whilst simultaneously communicating with a Patrol Car radio message arriving in their left ear and a helicopter radio message arriving in their right ear. The Control Room operators have identified a number of problems with the system most of which are encountered on a daily basis:

It is not possible to access CCTV footage whilst changing radio channels. Screen 1 has to be switched from the page that lists the Radio functions and the page that shows the CCTV pictures.
When searching the intelligent databases dates, peoples’ names and addresses have to be entered exact. For example, searching for John will not identify anyone with the name Jon. This can add significantly to the time taken to provide vital information to Police Officers. Occasionally the touch screens will ‘freeze’ and the system has to be switched off and rebooted in order to continue to work.

It is not possible to alter the positions of the screens or the foot pedals. This causes great difficulties for those operators that are either very short or very tall. The screen that is used most often is Screen 1 yet this is positioned to the left of the workstation. Majority of operators are right-handed and have to stretch to across their body to use the screen.
This has resulted in some repetitive strain injuries. Some operators have begun to use their left hand to use Screen 1 to avoid strain and injury. Unfortunately they are less able to press the buttons accurately with their left hands and this has slowed their pace of work.

The Command and Control Room has a backup Control Room in the event that there is a power failure. This backup facility is located several miles away. Despite the distance between the facilities recent modifications to the national grid by the local utilities companies has resulted in both of them now being connected to the same power supply. If a lightning strike cause power to be lost in the main Command and Control Room then power will also be lost in the backup Control Room.

1. Which specific systems-building approach could have been adopted to ensure that many of the current problems were minimized or eliminated prior to system implementation?

2. How many of the problems are computer related issues such as hardware or software faults? In addition, could you identify some operational issues?

3.How could the system be improved to make it easier for the operators to use?

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